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This article is about the Brazilian crônicas and never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.
The crônicas are typical in Brazilian newspapers and magazines; similar to our own newspaper columns, they are of limited length and varied in theme. The crônicas spontaneity and immediacy makes them engaging and their contents include a variety of moods, ranging from diary entries to exasperation or humour; satiric comments to wistful elegy. I first came across these unusual but beautiful pieces of text during one of my socio-historical content units for Portuguese. We were referring to them as we were looking at social disenchantment in Brazil - not only did I learn about key topics and preoccupations that Brazil has faced over these past few decades, but I also picked up loads of new grammar and vocab. Only in language degrees can you learn about history, politics, culture, literature and grammar all in one class! This is my take on a Brazilian crônica.
I spent my Year Abroad living in Lisbon, Portugal. It wasn’t quite the year I had expected; it was a hundred times better - I lived next to the white, sandy beaches and the clear, blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean; I was blessed with hot sunny days and I lived with four lively Brazilians. At times I could have easily confused living in Lisbon with some coastal town in Brazil itself; this was not what I imagined Portugal to be like. I learnt a lot about Brazilians whilst living in Lisbon, I learnt about their ways of life, customs and culture. They were 'brazileiros até demais' (Brazilians to excess); they loved to party, they were loud but not rude and they were so unbelievably friendly. One day, whilst enjoying a bottle of Guaraná (a popular Brazilian fizzy drink) we talked about Brazil and what they missed from home now that they lived in Portugal. The conversation quickly focused on the two pillars of Brazilianness; the ability to find a solution to a problem and the incredible ability to constantly put off doing things. These pillars of Brazilianness were unbeknown to me and I was greatly intrigued as to what it was. The first pillar is barely known outside of Brazil; it stands for the Brazilian’s unique ability to find a solution to an apparently impossible situation. The second pillar, on the other hand, is something that the Brazilians are renowned for the world over (maybe infamous is a better word). This ability to put things off is both their strength and their Achilles heel.
The famous words by Mark Twain, could easily describe, summarize and define the nature of the Brazilian people: "never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow" - a saying that the Brazilians no doubt take to heart. Although, this idea or need to put something off is more than just a saying or a matter of will but something ineluctable that actually seems to define the Brazilian people.
From having lived with and studied alongside some Brazilians for nearly a year I was graced with being able to see that things were postponed, delayed and put off so naturally and effortlessly by them. They seemed to postpone and put off doing things instantaneously and without thinking just like the natural instinct of an English person to have tea at four o’clock. When a problem or request is posed to a Brazilian, the answers are always something along the lines of: later on, tomorrow, after the weekend. Even I was not immune from this Brazilian trait and often found myself featuring on their list of jobs to do tomorrow.
They seem to put off doing anything and everything: they put off going to work, going to the dentist or the doctor, they delayed handing in their homework, they were late at meeting me and they put off asking for my rent money (not to my displeasure mind you). These are just some of the things that I noticed and experienced. But from our casual conversations over a can of Guaraná and from what I read online or had been taught in lectures at uni, this Brazilian trait was somewhat infectious; a disease that had spread throughout the country, from the local to the national levels, from the old to the young.
They seem to put off doing things by force of nature; something that is intrinsically part of their national identity and even seemingly part of their genetic code. Just like the French save money, the British find comfort in talking about the weather, the Portuguese' immense love for bacalhau, the German innate work efficiency...the Brazilians simply put off doing things.
The rich and vibrant Brazilian literature is not immune from this need to put off doing something. The poem, 'Se Eu Morresse Amanha' (If I Died Tomorrow) by the Brazilian poet Álvares de Azevedo is symptomatic of this Brazilianness: revealing a melancholic and morbid fear of an early death. For the Brazilians, so it would seem, the only important word is tomorrow.
That is all for now, the rest I shall write tomorrow...
To learn more about Brazilian traditions, customs, poetry and crônicas you're best off studying Portuguese as part of your degree!